The best websites
Phenom Of The Year
This music-trading free-for-all hasn’t made anyone rich yet, but it’s influencing our culture as much as the Sex Pistols did and altering the musical landscape like a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. Napsterites gain entry to an unlimited musical feast and get to act like millionaires in a CD store — and anything that much fun is probably illegal. But the recording industry can’t simply ignore Napster’s 44 million users, especially when one of the biggest media companies in the world, Bertelsmann AG, has joined the pied piper’s band. One day, Napster will be as mainstream as Johnny Rotten’s spiky hairdo or the opening riff of ”Purple Haze.” Until then, it will be anarchy in the music world.
By pooling the resources of hundreds of thousands of daily visitors, SurvivorSucks.com picked away at each episode of CBS’ hit reality show like Colleen picked at her scabs — and correctly predicted who would get kicked off seven times in a row. It looked like they’d hit the jackpot when one of their sources backtracked onto a hidden portion of CBS’ official website and found pictures of each contestant covered by a red X — except Gervase Peterson. Unfortunately, Gervase got booted in episode 10. But the flub hasn’t extinguished the site’s torch: Its first scoop from the outback, a purported photo of the new tribal council site, was posted Dec. 5.
3. Movie Sites
Directors and studios have finally opened their eyes — and pocketbooks — to the value of sites that are more than digital billboards. Among the most browser-breaking was an engrossing companion to Requiem for a Dream (requiemforadream.com), which exuded the film’s emotional tone and dispensed with anything resembling navigation. The trend toward plot-related solo sites grew more elaborate with MutantWatch.com, a mock campaign for the villainous politician in X-Men, and Ask a Hitman! (askahitman.com), which captured the spirit of Nurse Betty’s emotionally frail assassin. Although nothing came close to the mania caused last year by blairwitch.com, the experimentally experiential sites seem to be paying off, because they’ll become almost commonplace in 2001.
4. Icebox.com And MediaTrip.com
Online shows merged into traditional media surprisingly well for a year when e-tainment crashed and burned. In May, the animated blaxploitation series Undercover Brother became the first Internet original to be optioned for live-action feature-film treatment. Icebox.com, a Web haven for TV producers, recently announced that its flagship series, Zombie College, was picked up as a pilot for Fox. Former Disney Studios honcho Joe Roth decided to bring MediaTrip.com’s Lil’ Pimp to the big screen. And VHS copies of the Star Wars homage George Lucas in Love briefly outsold Phantom Menace on Amazon.com — not even Yoda could have predicted that.
5. Stephan King’s E-Books (www.stephenking.com)
His two stabs at digital publishing, last March’s ghostly story Riding the Bullet and July’s The Plant, a novel in progress, weren’t best-sellers, but they glimpsed the future of bookselling. Because even though Bullet was widely pirated, its initial success — barnesandnoble.com was swamped with requests on the day it was released — scared publishers into upgrading their electronic-book efforts. True, his pay-per-chapter Plant was put on hiatus after chapter six, but the power of King’s celebrity inched e-books further into the mainstream. Soon they might be as hard to kill off as kudzu.
6. The Sims (thesims.ea.com)
Superficially, this game looks like a computer-age dollhouse. But anyone who’s nurtured a Sim knows that it’s more addictive than Barbie crack and as cerebral as an Alfred Hitchcock film. The Sims get depressed, argue, steal, hold hot-tub parties, make babies, and die if you lock them in a room. Since Will Wright brilliantly left his creation open to modification, players have simulated their own families and mocked up imaginary ones like the Backstreet Boys or the contestants from Big Brother (phcreations.comwulfysimshop/ Celebritymen/celebrity).
7. Superfriends: Wazzzup!
Sticking out your tongue and saying ”Whassuuuuup!” isn’t hip anymore, but making fun of director Charles Stone III’s commercials still is. At Adcritic.com, the top 100 list is littered with the Budweiser spoofs. One of the first and most famous, cocreated by 27-year-old That ’70s Show writer Philip Stark, featured the Superfriends. Now the commercial’s slangy dialogue accompanies everything from The Matrix to a bris in Neurotrash.com’s hysterical Shalom!
8. Modern Humorist (modernhumorist.com)
The Onion seemed to have locked up the online humor market for a time. But then John Aboud and Michael Colton, with the help of a severely funny poster that likened MP3s to communism, began hacking it up for a slightly more media-savvy crowd. They formed the Society for the Promotion of Television to poke fun at the networks, wrangled a herd of goats into singing a Pepsi jingle, and glimpsed some wildly original epics in their ”Summer Movie eView.” And then there are the funny bits…
9. Experience Music Project (EMPlive.com)
Paul Allen’s $240 million attempt to put rock & roll under protective glass may not capture the true spirit of his inspiration — Jimi Hendrix — but it’s a wailing museum. The curvaceous Frank O. Gehry building houses a two-story-tall music-making guitar sculpture, electronic-drum tutorials, and an inspired collection that includes hip-hop and skate-punk memorabilia. Everything is connected by a handheld museum guide (which looks like a phaser crossed with a PalmPilot) that can pipe a Hendrix riff into your headphones while you gaze on one of his axes. Wah!
10. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Online Game (abc.go.com/primetine/millionaire)
The producers of this hit game show had four choices: (a) Spin off a Regis Philbin tie collection; (b) turn the set into a home furnishing line; (c) open a standardized-test prep school; (d) make a Web game that re-creates the sounds, sights, and excitement of being a contestant. Their final answer was (d), and the addictive online lifeline, which debuted long before people got bored with the show, has been played more than 160 million times since January.